I know everyone does their list of top albums of the year. I figured I might as well. So here it goes (in random order), my favorite albums of 2009. With bonus content, the albums I started listening to this year that aren’t from 2009!

“Strict Joy” – The Swell Season: These two caught my attention on the great show “Nocturnal State” on VH1 in the summer of 2007. Their version of “Falling Slowly” was played in heavy rotation, and I thought it was incredible. When I finally got the chance to see their film “Once” (they won best song at the Oscars with “Falling Slowly”) I was captivated. This is their follow-up essentially to that soundtrack. In my mind, it doesn’t disappoint. I love the contrast between what I expected from this album and what I got. “Feeling the Pull” gets my nod for favorite track on the album.

“Battle Studies” – John Mayer: It’s not “Continuum–Part II” like myself and many may have hoped (JM claims the next album “is closer than you think”) but it is the same quality stuff that we expect. While the style of the songs aren’t all the same, they all have a similar theme regarding relationships but when I listen to it I never get bored. Top track–“Friends, Lovers, or Nothing”

“Mean Everything to Nothing” – Manchester Orchestra: This album is probably the biggest surprise on here for me. It all started back in 2007 when my friend told me to check out this band Manchester Orchestra. I forgot until the next summer when the same friend posted a link to a free single from Manchester. I was floored, I just thought it was awesome. Then “Mean Everything to Nothing” came out. The whole album is incredible. When it first came out I didn’t listen to anything but it for probably a week. This is a must have. Favorite Track–“The River”

“Storyboards” – Sleeping at Last: This is another one of those bands that my friends led me to, and I owe them a lot. SAL is one of my favorites. So much was up in the air though for this record. They lost their drummer and decided not to replace him permanently, which you can tell in the fact that the drums aren’t a centerpiece in songs like they had been in previous albums. But what came out of the change were awesomely crafted songs. The strings on this album are great and really take it to another level. Top Track: “Side By Side”

“I Told You I Was Freaky” – Flight of the Conchords: Now people could easily look at this pick and think I am joking. I am not. Flight of the Conchords make some of the best music around. It’s hilarious, but it’s an album I can sit through and not even think I’m listening to a comedy group because the music is just that good. This album has a really good mix of styles which makes it a lot of fun to listen to. And now that they have announced that they are no longer doing the show on HBO, this could be our last Flight of the Conchords album. Top Track: “Friends” (featuring Jim Gaffigan)

“Incredibad” – The Lonely Island: Ok, so I probably shouldn’t have listed these two right next to each other but that’s how I photoshopped it, my bad. But seriously, this is another amazing comedic album that blends comedy with actual music talent. Without this album (and SNL, I guess), we wouldn’t really know it’s like to be on a boat. Some might say that that would have made for a better 2009, but I say that they are wrong. Favorite Track(s): It’s hard to go against “I’m On A Boat” but “We Like Sportz” is a close 2nd.

“The Blueprint III” – Jay-Z: I feel like this is the appropriate time for a Dos Equis style commercial. “I don’t always listen to rap, but when I do, I prefer Jay-Z.” I’m not going to act like I know a ton about rap. My listening tastes really only include a few artists. But “The Blueprint III” is the best rap album I’ve listened to. I think the mix of all the other artists on the album gives every song a different feel and helps propel the album. Plus, who doesn’t want to catch the next flight to New York when they hear “Empire State of Mind”? Top Track: “On To The Next One” (mainly because of the line about being a Jonas Brother. It’s genius)

“Hello Hurricane” – Switchfoot: It’s been a while since Switchfoot put out an album, but the wait was definitely worth it. “Hello Hurricane” is truly a complete masterpiece when you think about how a band should  through themselves into every single song. There is not a single song on the album that I don’t see Switchfoot wanting to perform every night. As Jon Foreman says in the DVD that accompanies the album, the band had to ask themselves “is this a song that you would die singing” for every song they recorded (they recorded almost 90 songs and will release three more albums that they already have recorded). I think that is a test that every band should put on themselves. Favorite track: “The Sound (John M. Perkins Blues)”

“Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix” – Phoenix: Yet another band that my friends told me about. It’s just straight up fun alternative rock. And I don’t mean necessarily like turn it on and dance and have fun but an album that I can listen all the way through and sing along and just smile. The band has a great blend of vocals and instruments and it’s never boring. Top track: “Lisztomania”

“Vampire Weekend” – Vampire Weekend: Sometimes, I miss a gem of an album the year it comes out, and sometimes it’s because of my own stubbornness. Last year when everyone was talking about Vampire Weekend I kind of listened once and at the time wasn’t impressed. Then I gave it another shot this year and loved it. Sometimes it just takes another listen. Their second album comes out in early 2010 and hopefully that follows the path that their debut has them on. Top Track: “Oxford Comma” or “I Stand Corrected”

“Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” – The Beatles: I could’ve put one of many Beatles albums on here but I just decided on this one. Thanks to History of Rock and Roll which I took spring semester of this year, I got officially hooked on the Beatles. I think learning the back story and history of the band just made me become more of a fan. I think it’s fascinating to know what went into everything they did and I think “Sgt. Pepper’s” is a perfect representation of that. Favorite Track: “With A Little Help From My Friends”

“Spring and Summer EPs” – Jon Foreman: In 2007 and 2008 Jon Foreman (lead singer of Switchfoot) released 4 EPs, one for each season. I listened to fall and winter but then kind of forgot about the two after that. Then this summer Switchfoot announced a last minute show in Des Moines and myself and 2 friends went. After the show, Jon did an acoustic set in a coffee house. It was incredible. There were maybe 30 people max there (the only warning was on twitter after the show) and Jon asked the crowd to make the set list for him. It completely made me fall in love with his solo stuff and Switchfoot as a band again. Top Track: “Your Love is Strong”

“For Emma, Forever Ago” – Bon Iver: I’m not quite sure how I missed Bon Iver in 2008, but when I finally heard them in 2009, I was hooked. The blend of their lyrics, the lead singer’s distinct vocals, and the music behind it all is just breathtaking. While it is a sad album about a breakup, the songs are all beautiful. I can’t really say much more except to listen to it. Favorite Track: “For Emma”

“Highway 61 Revisited” – Bob Dylan: Another album I got directed towards because of History of Rock. I used to be one of the Dylan haters who chocked him up to mumbling over an acoustic guitar, but after the class I began to appreciate his music. I like the blend of this album, and I prefer the rock Dylan over the acoustic for the most part. Top Track: “Ballad of a Thin Man”

“Oh My” – Sean Fournier: Fournier is a local musician in the Northeast US, who my friend turned me onto because of his free EP “Oh My”. While this guy might not have mainstream success, I don’t think it should be long before he does. His songwriting is infectious and upbeat, everything radio is looking for. I’m looking forward to a lot more great music from him. Favorite Track: “Another Like You”

There you have it. If you’re reading down this far, I’m very impressed.

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